Kinn Guesthouse

As you walk into the entrance way of the Kinn Guesthouse, you’ll find a beautiful open kitchen that faces a large couch, conveniently placed next to a cozy fireplace.  As you enter, you instantly feel as though you’ve walked into a close friend’s home.  Decorating the wall behind the couch is a broad collection of art displayed in a gallery style.  If you look close enough, you’ll find two black and white portraits of men hidden among the colorful bustle of art.  These men are the grandfather and father of Charles Bailey, the same men that ran The Drake Hotel in downtown Chicago and The Drake in Oakbrook, respectively.  Now that Charles has opened his own guesthouse with his wife Connie Bailey, they thought it fitting to name their business Kinn (adding the extra “n” because the building is on Kinnickinnic Avenue in Bay View).

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Originally from Chicago, Charles was a floor trader for years.  But as the industry changed, he started looking at other career options.  “I’ve always been fascinated with the idea of hotels because I’ve been around them my entire life. I never thought I’d be in the business but it always intrigued me,” says Charles.  The couple lived in Chicago’s Wicker Park neighborhood until they decided it was time to move as their son, Quinn was getting older.  The family moved their life to Milwaukee and soon after that, found a beautiful brick building in Bay View for sale.

“The building presented itself and our dream started to take shape,” Connie explains. “The concept was all Charles, but we did work together to perfect the idea and execution.”  The couple put in a great deal of work to get the building to where it is now.  It started out as a masonic lodge then a series of bars and restaurants that didn’t take care of the space.  Connie and Charles gutted the entire thing and brought the building back to life, while keeping the original flooring (110-year-old maple) and exposing the cream city brick walls.

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Charles was always interested in the idea behind Airbnb and foresees the company changing the hotel industry.  “To me, the success of Airbnb means that people care to live in a different way.  They want something that feels more like home than the big hotels,” he says.  Charles found the perfect mix between that homey concept and the luxury feel of hotels: comfy but not too personal.  “Usually you just want to live like you do at home [when traveling],” says Charles. “I didn’t have to prove that concept, I just had to build it.”  The idea was to keep overhead low by making the building totally self-sufficient so that Charles and Connie could focus on enriching the rooms as much as possible.  When you book a room with Kinn Guesthouse, you receive a code for your room that becomes active the day you check in.  When you arrive, your room is ready, there’s community wine in the common room, and if you happen to be there on a Saturday morning, Charles is most likely there to greet you with fresh muffins from Honey Pie (the bakery next door).

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Kinn Guesthouse opened in March of this year but it is already very involved with theMilwaukee community.  On all the walls in the guesthouse, you will find artwork from local Milwaukee artists that Connie handpicked herself.  The exception is the gallery wall in the common room, which is part of Charles and Connie’s personal art collection.  Connie plans on swapping the artwork in the rooms to display more local artists. On the Kinn website, you can find links to these artists.  Kinn is also working with the restaurant Kindred, located on the first floor of the building.  “We are starting to create events that bring local vendors in for conceptual dining experiences,” explains Connie.

Kinn makes it easy for travelers to instantly connect with Milwaukee.  Guests can enjoy the luxurious day-lit rooms while feeling like they’re at home with access to a kitchen and a bottle of wine waiting for them on the counter.  And the best part is that Charles and Connie take the time to get to know their guests.  View their website and take a peek into the Kinn Guesthouse.

Feeding Mouths Filling Minds

We all have those moments when we see a cause that needs attention, and think “I should do something about this,” but few of us act on that thought.  That’s what makes Maria and Grant Groves stand out.  After a trip to Kenya, they started the non-profit organization Feeding Mouths Filling Minds in 2012.  When Maria was 20, she visited an orphanage in Nairobi, Kenya on a service project that opened her eyes to challenges people face across the world.  The widespread poverty she saw stayed in the back of her mind until she finally went back to visit that same orphanage years later with her husband Grant.  This visit was different because the couple started talking about land use, how land use could improve food and water, and what the orphanage could do to optimize land use.  “That’s how the organization got started,” says Maria.

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FMFM focuses on sustainable food and water sources because if these basic needs are fulfilled, children are “able to turn their attention to filling their minds rather than worrying about filling their bellies,” as explained on the group’s website.  Feeding Mouths Filling Minds has partnered with other organizations to build water wells in Liberia, farm ponds in Kenya, sustainable farming in Sierra Leone and so much more.  With Maria’s unique skills in networking and business, the organization is able to acquire funding to implement these projects.  And with the help of their dedicated team, FMFM ensures that the projects continue to be successful by teaching local people in Africa how to carry out the programs.

Feeding Mouths Filling Minds has also started to focus on their local community in addition to their projects in Africa.  They have partnered with Youth Outreach Service in Chicago to build an urban garden for at-risk youth, that will provide local teenagers with healthy food and teach them how to manage their own garden.  FMFM is also in the process of launching a global students program that youth groups, teen centers and/or teachers could incorporate into their activities and lesson plans.  Under that program, kids would pick an African country to learn about and would complete academic components and required readings focusing on that country.  Then the children would choose one of the FMFM projects and would come up with their own ideas to help with funding.  The students would be connected with the children they are helping in Africa via email or mail.  They would “really own it and be empowered through that entire project,” explains Maria.

So when you think to yourself “I should do something about this,” follow FMFM’s model and take action.  The organization understands that children are our future, both in Africa and at home, and with their basic needs met, they can reach their full potential.  Learn more about the organization on their website at www.feedingmouthsfillingminds.com

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Jacob Bach & Good Land Guides

Meet Jacob Bach.  He’s one of the most outgoing, encouraging, eccentric and caring people I know.  One of his main goals in life is to always make the people around him laugh.  Just a few months ago in February 2017, Jacob incorporated Good Land Guides, “a Wisconsin-based tourism company that focuses on getting people out into the good land,” explains Jacob.   Not only does he take people on backpacking and rafting adventures in nature, but he also leads trips into cities or interesting places around Wisconsin in order to show people what Wisconsin really has to offer.  On top of that, he tries to schedule one volunteer day per month like the Devil’s Lake clean-up event last month that brought about 300 people to the state park to clean up trash and maintain the trails.

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So how did Bach get here?  Yes, he does spend most of his time outdoors, but no, that’s not necessarily his professional background.  He actually started as a dancer, actor and then a comedian.  Bach grew up in Milwaukee learning dance and acting, then started doing comedy through the ComedySportz High School League, which he now teaches. In 2010 he started The Improvised Musical, a theater company he ran with co-producer Mary Baird that was a traveling improvised musical which he calls “the gypsy company.”  The group would travel around the country headlining improv festivals in New York, performing at universities and other venues.  During the company’s five-year run, the company won best theater company in Milwaukee by the Shepard Express.

2017_04_01_DevilsLake_213_1EOnce the company ended in 2015, Jacob began to focus on his solo career.  He started a podcast called “Yeah, Bro!” which Jacob describes as “the show where straight guys talk about gay things.” Little did he know, he would gain thousands of listeners in the first year and get asked to do photo shoots for Milwaukee Magazine and Quest.  “I was getting a reputation for being me… I was notorious for being myself, like having a personality,” says Bach.  He has also been working at ComedySportz for 10 years, making a living from coaching comedy, performing, independent contracting and leading team building work shops for corporate companies.

His life was running smooth until his father had a massive heart attack in 2014 and Jacob was the first responder on the scene.  Luckily his father was fine, but the event changed both Jacob’s and his family’s perspective.  It “opened my family’s eyes to doing things” and not worrying about money, he mentions.  Skip ahead to 2016: Jacob made it his goal to see every state park in Wisconsin in one year.  “I finished up that tour and completely fell in love… I didn’t know how badly I wanted to share things with people.”

After completing his 2016 goal, Jacob took the NOLS Southwest Outdoor Educator course to become a trained outdoor guide.  Once he got back from that trip, he realized that he wanted to work in the outdoors and show people this “crazy awesome” state. That’s when the idea for Good Land Guides first popped into his head.

So as I sat on the couch with Jacob at the rock climbing gym listening to his story about his life, the creation of Good Land Guides made perfect sense to me.  But I had one final question: What do both comedy and guiding do for the community and why do you do them?

2017_04_01_DevilsLake_194_1EHis answer was so profound, that I am going to let him take it from here:

“I think that they are both honestly the same. It’s just an escape for people for a while. Both of them should be bringing you happiness in some way.  I do comedy because I need attention, but I also do comedy because I like to give people attention. Specifically, I do improv because it’s so interactive with people and it’s so collaborative.  I love commanding attention from people but it’s because I like to make sure that people are always laughing about something or at least having a decent conversation about something.  Guiding people is my way of sharing what I love with people. It’s a communal thing. You’re getting people out into places that you have chosen for them.  And you’re showing them why you love it and hopefully they are loving it in return.”